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  • What to do about fingerprint law: letter of protest, Amnesty Int’l meeting Oct 27

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 5th, 2007

    WHAT TO DO ABOUT NEW NOV 20 FINGERPRINT LAW REVISION TARGETING ALL NJ BORDER CROSSERS
    LETTER OF PROTEST YOU CAN USE
    AND AMNESTY INT’L MEETING OCT 27 YOU CAN ATTEND

    (UPDATE: OCT 9: Comments section below contains suggestions on where to send your complaints.)

    (UPDATE: OCT 16: CLICK HERE FOR ANOTHER TEMPLATE PROTEST LETTER IN JAPANESE YOU CAN SEND TO AUTHORITIES.)

    I’ve been getting quite a few inquiries as to what we can do about this from very frustrated people. Some want to march in protest, others want to lobby legislators, still others want to launch a lawsuit or just refuse to be fingerprinted.

    Not to douse any fireworks (and I never like to tell anyone not to utilize a peaceful form of protest, even if it may not work in the Japanese system), but be advised of the obstacles you are facing:

    1) LAUNCHING A LAWSUIT means a lot of time and energy (and often a considerable amount of money) you invest, and probably no way to stop this law from being promulgated in the first place. It’s been in the pipeline for years now, and at the risk of saying I told you so, I did, from at least 2005, so the “foregone conclusion” effect is very powerful by now. Moreover, I speak from experience when I say that the legislative and judicial processes in Japan are not going to interfere with one another (not the least due to the Separation of Powers mandate), at least not for the many years spent in civil court anyway.

    Wanna try it? Go for it. I’ll hold your coat. But the simple argument you’re going to get back from any lawyer with a retiring personality (and no activist proclivity) is that you’re not going to be able to sue for discrimination–when many laws don’t treat citizens and non-citizens equally anyway; it’s like suing because you don’t have voting rights, and that definitely won’t wash in court.

    2) CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, i.e. refusing to comply with the law, is an option, but the GOJ has already out-thunk you there. When protests against fingerprinting happened before (mostly by Zainichis), they were possible because people were already inside Japan when they protested. Refuse to hand in your fingerprint? Fine, go home and have dinner and wait for the next scolding letter from the GOJ. You weren’t going to get kicked out of the country. This time around, however, you’re outside the country, so refuse to be fingerprinted and you won’t be let in; you can sit in the airport lobby or Gaijin Tank all year for all Immigration cares. Moreover, to save themselves a repeat Zainichi protest performance, the Zainichis were conveniently made exempt. Touche. Refuse to comply if you like, but be aware of the potential risks–and unless enough of you do it and fill up the Gaijin Tanks they’re not going to notice.

    You can, of course, in a similar vein make your complaints known and loud via you or your spouse and family by all lining up in the same Gaijin Line together, and grumbling when it’s your turn that you are not a tourist and should be treated like a resident of Japan like any other.

    3) LOBBYING LEGISLATORS sounds interesting, but it’s extremely labor intensive, and legislators in my experience are not as accessible as they are, say, in the US Congressional lobbying experience I have had. Again, go for it if you want. They have email addresses and phone numbers. Just remember that unless you are an entrenched interest, Japanese Diet Members will generally be nonplussed about what you’re doing in their office; they don’t usually even pretend to listen to the commoners unless it’s election time.

    4) A PUBLIC MARCH is also viable, and you might be able to get something going by attending the Amnesty International/SMJ meeting in Tokyo Oct 27. Attend if only to salve your angst that you feel alone in this issue–because you’re definitely not, but it sure is difficult to get the NJ community mobilized around much.

    Anyway, first, the details of the Oct 27 Amnesty/SMJ Tokyo Meeting are blogged here.

    Next, if you want to raise awareness of the issue, I have some letters below which Martin Issott has kindly said I can include to inspire us. He’s sent these out to various agencies, particularly the tourist-based ones, and I suggest you adapt them to your purposes and do the same.

    Anyone have time on their hands (I don’t right now), please translate into Japanese for the public good and I’ll put it up here.

    But don’t do nothing about it if this bothers you–otherwise the aggravation will build up inside you and fossilize into resentment. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    RE: JAPAN’S AMENDED IMMIGRATION LAW

    ——————————-

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    I am a 20 plus year resident of Kobe, and I am taking the liberty of writing to you to describe what I regard as the grossly unfair manner in which Japan’s Ministry of Justice intends to implement amendments to the Immigration Law, which come into effect from 23rd November this year.

    I am hoping that you will be able to support the case that I describe, and will use your good offices in the UK to publicise this situation to all of your Japanese national members, in the hope that together their and your influence may be able to affect change to MOJ’s plans.

    As you may already be aware, the amended Immigration Law requires that all foreigners, be they visitors, residents, or permanent residents, must submit fingerprints and photographs on each and every entry, or re-entry, to the country.

    However the law also stipulates for those resident foreigners who have pre-registered their bio-metric data with the authorities, they may use what is termed an Automated gate system to facilitate their immigration procedure.

    Since 23rd August I have on several occasions requested the Kobe Immigration Office to allow myself and my wife to provide the required bio-metric data.

    At no time have I received an actual response to this request, but have been told, initially, only that the automated gate system would be established at Narita Airport by 23rd November.

    Subsequent follow up finally resulted in a letter from the Kobe Immigration authorities dated 21st September clearly stating that the automated gate system is only to be established at Narita Airport, and there are no plans to establish this system at any of Japan’s other international airports.

    As a Kobe resident, it is impractical for me to use Narita Airport, and thus as the situation stands at present I will be required to join the lengthy queues of arriving foreigners to provide my fingerprints and photograph each time I reenter the country.

    It is a classic Catch-22 situation!

    I regard it as grossly unfair to all resident foreigners residing outside of the immediate Tokyo area that the automated gate system is not to be established at all Japan’s International Airports.

    Even more galling is the fact that at all international airports special immigration channels, effectively automated gates have recently been established for non Japanese APEC business travel card holders.

    The final irony is that as a 20 year resident my fingerprints have long since been on file with Kobe City authorities, so I appealed to them to provide a copy of my data that I could submit to Kobe Immigration – they proudly proclaimed that they had long since destroyed such data!

    I also applied to the local police, and was informed that the police never, ever, take the fingerprints of citizens in good standing!

    Sir, this is really quite a ridiculous situation, but one which will very seriously inconvenience a great many resident businessmen, and in my case as an Area Director I need to enter and reenter Japan 2 or 3 times per month!

    Finally I repeat whatever you are able to do to publicise this situation will be very much appreciated – noting that of course frustrated businessmen here will very soon be making loud appeals to the British Immigration authorities to treat resident Japanese businessmen in the UK in the same unfriendly manner which would be another retrograde step.

    Yours sincerely,

    ========================================

    RE: AMENDED IMMIGRATION LAW

    Attention: The Director, Visit Japan Campaign [or whatever avenue you wish to pursue]

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    As I am sure you are well aware, the amended Immigration Law, contains a stipulation that an Automated gate system shall be established to facilitate the entry and re-entry to Japan of resident foreigners, however the Automated gate will only be established at Narita Airport by 23rd November this year, the date of the new law’s enforcement.

    Kobe Immigration have confirmed to me by letter dated 21st September that there is no plan to establish the automated gate system at any other international airport in Japan.

    You may claim that this has nothing to do with your organisation, but I believe very strongly that it has everything to do with your activities in your attempts to promote tourism to Japan.

    When resident foreigners such as myself, with over 20 year residence in the city of Kobe, are as from 23rd November, on entry or re-entry to Japan treated as suspected criminals or terrorist despite our pleading with authorities to pre-register our bio-metric data in advance, I’m sure you can imagine that this does not give us a good impression about the quality of life living in Japan as a foreigner!

    Therefore we will pass on these views and opinions to friends, relatives, and colleagues who might by considering to visit Japan with a strong warning to stay away!

    There are still 2 months to go before implementation of the amended Immigration Law on 23rd November this year; I urgently request you to do your best to remonstrate with the Ministry of Justice about their unfair implementation of the new Immigration Law.

    Sincerely yours,

    ================================
    ends

    (CLICK HERE FOR ANOTHER TEMPLATE PROTEST LETTER IN JAPANESE YOU CAN SEND TO AUTHORITIES.)

    14 Responses to “What to do about fingerprint law: letter of protest, Amnesty Int’l meeting Oct 27”

    1. debito Says:

      FROM A FRIEND: MORE SUGGESTIONS ON WHERE TO SEND LETTERS OF CONSTERNATION ABOUT THIS POLICY, AND HOW NEGATIVELY IT WILL AFFECT JAPAN’S RECEPTION AT THE BORDER:

      Japan National Tourist Organization and the Japan Hotel Association; tell them that the fingerprinting/biometric system is going to repel both business and leisure travelers, and will ultimately cost Japan foreign exchange and jobs. CC Justice/Immigration and Naikakufu.

      JNTO
      10th Fl., Tokyo Kotsukaikan Bldg.,
      2-10-1, Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan 100-0006

      Japan Hotel Association:
      100ー0004
      東京都千代田区大手町2ー2ー1新大手町ビル
      社団法人 日本ホテル協会
      会長 中村 裕 (Nakamura Yutaka)

      Try also Hato Bus Co., JAL, ANA, Tokyo and Osaka governments, Ginza and Akihabara Merchants’ Associations, etc.

      People could also write to JR, Keisei Dentetsu, Limousine bus companies, etc., all of which will be affected, I believe.

      I think the single one best potential for protests will be international couples traveling together where one spouse is Japanese. They won’t be able stand in line and enter together any more, and that will also require the Japanese partner to cool his or her heels while waiting. (With no place to go to do it except the baggage claim area.)

      ALSO:

      1. My ward office alien reg. counter doesn’t even know about the new system.

      2. I phoned Shinagawa immigration and they referred me to the PR office of the Nyukan, Min. of Justice.

      From the above, it’s obvious that we are six weeks away from starting the new system and nobody knows the hell what is going on!

    2. Tony Says:

      Dear Debito,

      Thanks as usual for your efforts on behalf of the silent majority of foreigners in Japan, who rely on people like you to protect their rights!

      I was interested to read the following in one of the posts above:

      “As I am sure you are well aware, the amended Immigration Law, contains a stipulation that an Automated gate system shall be established to facilitate the entry and re-entry to Japan of resident foreigners, however the Automated gate will only be established at Narita Airport by 23rd November this year, the date of the new law’s enforcement.”

      This is the first I’ve heard of this. Does it mean that foreigners with re-entry permits entering Japan at Narita will have a special lane and avoid having to queue up with all non re-entry foreign national visitors to Japan?

      Hope you can clarify . . . .

      Cheers
      Tony

      –NOPE, IT MEANS YOU LINE UP WITH EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE ALIEN LINE. NOTHING SPECIAL PLANNED AT THE MOMENT. I’LL HAVE AN ARTICLE ON THIS IN NEXT WEEK’S METROPOLIS. TOOL AROUND SOME MORE OF THE RECENT POSTS ON THE DEBITO.ORG BLOG AND YOU’LL SEE WHAT I MEAN. DEBITO

    3. anonymous Says:

      I wrote a protest letter to the website of the then Prime Minister Koizumi before the law was passed. No answer of course, and then he continued on his blind course in passing this law. Mr. Abe did nothing to alter things and now we are on our third Prime Minister who all seem to agree that it is okay to treat redidents of Japan in this rude and discrimintatory manner.

      I also gave my fingerprints, which I guess they have since destroyed, as well as the numerous documents necessary to get my visa and alien card. I have already been thoroughly “processed” and consider this mere foolishness on the part of the Japanese government.

      I applaud the protest letters but I won’t be writing any more. Instead I am voting with my wallet and have cancelled two trips abroad this year, refused to renew my re-entry permit, and am leaving Japan at the end of my contract this year. I consider it is their loss of a contributing member of Japanese society. I am truly fed up.

    4. Jason Says:

      First, thanks for raising awareness on this.

      Second, I’m looking forward to the upcoming story in Metropolis. I think it’s great opportunity to get the word out. BUT, if there’s no specific information about who we can complain to, or a letter in Japanese that we can send, the article may just leave people frustrated.

      I appreciate the info in the above comments, but I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions to coincide with the Metropolis article to take advantage of people’s frustration. We need use that energy to fight this. I’m upset right now, but I don’t feel I have any good ways to fight this. So:

      1. Put together a letter of complaint that represents those of who live here as permanent residents or have valid visas. I think it’s useful to point out that:

      -we’ve already gone through the screening process to get our visas
      -they already have our photograph and detailed information
      -we are taxpayers
      -we are an important part of the foreign companies that do business in Japan
      -and much more….

      2. Put together a list of involved agencies that we can send this letter to.

      Again, I think it’s a great opportunity to get people to fight this, but we need the tools/information to do it.

      I’m sorry I don’t have the Japanese language skills write the letter myself, but I will be able to make up for it on the ground level.

    5. debito Says:

      FEEDBACK FROM “THE COMMUNITY” MAILING LIST:

      When I talk to Japanese about this, they all certainly agree that I or other foreigners they know needn’t be>fingerprinted, but what about all the unknown people? The need to prevent terrorism, as invalid an argument as it>is, seems to firmly convince your average Japanese (who really have to be pressed to express any concern about>the issue at all!) that fingerprinting foreigners is justifiable.

      Which is precisely the tack the gov’t. is taking on the matter. But here’s the problem: if you asked a Japanese person to name terrorist attacks on Japan, they would likelly have a tough time mentioning any. You might want to prod them by offering a definition of terrorism, such as “the use or threat of violence against civilian targets for the political or ideological purposes.” Off the top of my head, I’d include:

      -the 2007 assassination of Nagasaki mayor Itoh Itcho
      -the 2006 firebombing of politician Kato Koichi’s mother’s home, after he criticized PM Koizumi’s Yasukuni shrine visits
      -the 2002 murder of Diet member Ishii Kokii in Setagaya
      -the 2000 firebombing of Abe Shinzo’s home and cars
      -the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system
      -the 1995 Narita airport bombing
      -the (1990?) attempted assassination of Nagasaki mayor Motoshima Hitoshi, who publicly claimed that Emperor Hirohito has been partly to blame for WWII
      -the 1977 hijacking of JAL flight 472 by the Japanese Red Army
      -the 1970 hijacking of JAL flight 351 by the Japanese Communist League/Red Army Faction

      Now, what’s the common link here? All the above terrorist acts were committed by Japanese nationals. Which means none of the acts would have been prevented by the fingerprinting and photographing of foreign nationals.

      Maybe there is an equivalent number of terrorist attacks committed by foreign nationals on Japanese soil and I invite anyone to post such a list.

      I suppose this isn’t to say that a terrorist attack on Japanese soil by foreign nationals would never occur. But if Japan is serious about combatting terrorism, it would do better to focus its resources and efforts on fighting the terrorists, who in Japan happen to be Japanese, instead of focussing on foreigners, whose terrorist objectives against Japan are hypothetical possiblity.
      ENDS

    6. Tony Says:

      Debito,

      Thanks for your reply. But I’m still curious as to what this “Automated Gate” is supposed to be (the one which is only going to be at Narita). Do you have any idea?

      – YES I DO. SEE IT IN PRACTICE AT THE GOJ’S NEW INFORMATION SITE ON THE PROCEDURE:

      http://nettv.gov-online.go.jp/prg/prg1431.html

      LET ME ALSO INCLUDE THE PITHY QUOTE FROM MARK MINO-THOMPSON:

      Gone are the “random” gaijin being interviewed about their concerns,
      then acceptance of this program (once they “realise” it’s for their
      security). The voice-over now has a pleasant-sounding British man
      to soothe your worries. The bit about “foreign visitors” coming to
      Japan has been changed to “foreign nationals” as well.

      Altogether, it’s a much slicker package overall. I love the bit
      stating “If for any reason you cannot provide your fingerprints,
      please follow the immigration officer’s instructions” (“Please
      follow me to the holding cell, sir.”) Sadly, it still mentions that
      after your photo and prints are collected, you will be interviewed
      by the officer “as to the purpose of your VISIT to Japan.”

      Mark Mino-Thompson

    7. anonymous Says:

      Watching the new video makes me just as angry as the old one, but brings up a thought. What if a lot of people (say a planeload) came to Japan and all refused to give their fingerprints and photos and then were “ordered to leave Japan” but instead sat down in the immigration line. I suppose they would all be detained (at Japanese expense)before being sent back but if there were news coverage it might make a large splash, especially if there were any residents among them.

      Or what if _every_ resident refused to give their fingerprints and photos and was turned back? It would be very uncomfortable for the first ones, but how could the Japanese government continue in the complete absence of cooperation? Hopefully, their employers would start complaining when they didn’t show up for work.

      –SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA AND PROBABLY EVERY EFFECTIVE–IF A WHOLE PLANELOAD OF PEOPLE WERE TO GET ANGRY ENOUGH TO ORGANIZE LIKE THAT AND FILL UP THE GAIJIN TANK. THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY I SEE IS, AS USUAL, AFFECT THE BOTTOM LINE. IF ENOUGH BUSINESSPEOPLE GET FED UP BY THIS AND FOREIGN EXCHANGE INTO JAPAN GETS NEGATIVELY AFFECTED, I BET THIS PROGRAM WOULD CHANGE OVERNIGHT.

      THE WEAKEST LINK IN THIS CHAIN ACROSS THE BORDER, WHERE PRESSURE COULD BE APPLIED, IS THE APEC BUSINESS TRAVEL CARD SYSTEM, WHICH ENABLES BUSINESSPEOPLE TO TRAVEL ACROSS BORDERS WITHOUT INCIDENT. JAPAN IS ONE OF 17 ASIAN COUNTRIES WHICH HAS ACCEPTED THIS CARD, AND IT IS THE ONLY ONE VOIDING IT THROUGH THIS SYSTEM. IF APEC WERE TO START COMPLAINING, THAT WOULD PUT A LOT OF WIND BEHIND OUR SAILS.

      ANYONE OUT THERE HAVE CONNECTIONS WITH APEC? DEBITO

    8. Tony Says:

      Debito,

      Thanks for the clarification. I had imagined that this was what was going to be available everywhere and that Narita was going to have something different. How are they going to manage things elsewhere? A guy with a digital camera and an inkpad taking photos and fingerprints of everyone?

      Does this mean that the talk of being able to “pre-register” one’s biometric data for using in the Automated Gate system at Narita is incorrect?

      ANSWER ONE: THAT’S BEEN LEFT UNCLEAR, BUT FINGERPRINTS WILL DEFINITELY NOT BE TAKEN BY BIOMETRIC SCAN ANYWHERE ELSE BUT NARITA. THAT JUST LEAVES THE OLD INK AND SMEAR METHOD. ASSUME MUG SHOTS WILL BE TAKEN THE OLD FASHIONED WAY TOO.

      REPORT AND PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENTS HERE
      http://www.debito.org/index.php/?p=592

      ANSWER TWO: THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS. YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE ALIEN GATE EVERY TIME AND GO THROUGH THE PROCEDURE EVERY TIME.

      FINALLY, EVERYONE, IF YOU HAVE ANY MORE QUESTIONS LIKE THESE, FIRST PLEASE READ MY PREVIOUS BLOG ENTRIES ON THE SUBJECT. THEY ARE CLEARLY TITLED IN THE “RECENT POSTS” SECTION, AND LINKED TOGETHER WITHIN THE ENTRIES.

      SORRY, BUT I’VE GOT A BUSY NEXT TWO WEEKS, AND ANSWERING QUESTIONS THAT ARE ANSWERED ELSEWHERE ON THE BLOG ALREADY IS BECOMING AN UNACCEPTABLE DRAIN ON MY TIME. I’M GOING TO HAVE TO IGNORE AND DELETE THEM FROM NOW ON.

      PLEASE DO MORE RESEARCH BEFORE ASKING QUESTIONS, EVERYONE. THANKS. TABOU DEBITO

    9. Ben Says:

      Posted on another mailing list. Non-violent civil disobedience, anyone?

      “It’s not really common knowledge but electronic fingerprint readers
      don’t work on about 10% of the population. Something about the
      grooves being too shallow or something. So they have to have some
      sort of contingency plan in place, like taking ink prints and then
      scanning them. This costs them money. Lots of money; as in if
      everyone had to have manual prints done the project would go way over
      budget. I recommend applying superglue to your fingertips just before
      getting off the plane. EVERYONE. Or cover your fingers in a thick
      layer of vaseline or chewing gum to really mess up their readers.
      Apologize profusely when they find out, but just let them mess around
      trying to find out why nobody’s prints register on any machines before
      just saying “screw it” and letting everyone through. Let’s mess with
      the system, I say. Make it so cost inefficient and so time consuming
      that they have to stop.”

    10. Cathal McTire Says:

      The exemption of “special permanent residents” is a perfect example of Japanese ill-considered “prudence” (read cowardice) without principle, whatever the tatemae may be…It has been (seriously) suggested to me that no small consideration in establishing the new policy was the money that certain Diet members stood to gain through their connections with the chaps who produce the equipment needed to fingerprint and photograph us gaijin. The idiocy of the entire scheme is so blatant that to attempt reasonable debate is like spitting into a gale…Still, it seems to me that, while one has to be careful not to give offense to the Zainichi community, it is the exemption that ought to be attacked as unlawful even by the Kafkaesque standards of Japanese jurisprudence. In the long run, it does the Zainichi no good either. Those who think they can pat the nice doggie of selective “original innocence” (as defined by race and ethnicity) will eventually be bitten by it.

    11. La rivière aux canards Says:

      Relevé des empreintes dans les aéroports japonais à partir de novembre 2007…

      Il faut en reparler, du relevé des empreintes pour chaque étranger débarquant au Japon, à partir de fin novembre 2007.Un article sur rfi, N’entre plus au Japon qui veut !Ces nouvelles mesures japonaises rendant obligatoires la saisie des empreinte…

    12. Thomas Says:

      A solution against the law:
      http://ad.20six.fr/pak/img/platre2.jpg

      –I’M NOT SURE WHAT THIS LINK IS SUPPOSED TO LINK TO, AND ASSUME THAT SOME ERROR HAS BEEN MADE. SO I’LL GIVE THE POSTER 18 HOURS TO REPOST. DEBITO IN TOKYO

    13. Thomas Says:

      Sorry, the link seems dead.
      It was a picture of a broken hand with bandage: no way to get finger prints with that !

    14. Ann Says:

      I am in utter shock at the whole thing.
      For one,most of the Japanese papers in English have NOT explained the situation accurately.
      The video is a joke!
      And the fact that not even the bodies involved seem able to understand and let you know properly speaks volumes of yet again
      how messed up things can get in this country.
      It makes me really really sad.
      I am going to try and nick this video and put it up in youtube!

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